An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma: A Book Review

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I admire Indian writers for their works after I read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, one of my top favorite novels. These novels bear a close resemblance to each other: their Dickensian themes. So, I always thrill to reading any Indian novel when I am lucky to get one. As a matter of fact, I miss reading another novel by Rohinton Mistry so much.

An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma is another reason for me to fall in love with Indian writers. This is also similar to the books above which deals with poverty and corruption in India although it may not be considered as fine as those other writers’ works. But for me, I appreciated the novel because of how the author weaved the story with more complicated elements. As a result, in my personal experience, it emanated a mixture of different feelings. I liked it in a sense that it is easy to read so it looks beautifully written, that it is unpredictable because I didn’t know that there was something more than what I had expected, and that I came to the point I found its climax tedious and idealistic but the ending left me clueless and heart-broken.

This novel seems to be similar to the other Asian novels I have read: their English sentences are easy to read, not as complicated as Western ones that I have to grasp their native sentences. Asian English must be completely different from Western English unless the Asian writer grew in the US or the UK. I am not sure of my linguistic theory, but my point is that I enjoyed reading the sentences of this novel. They are smooth, soothing , rhythmic, and full of beautiful phrases . However, I noticed quite a few inappropriate word choices and wrong spellings . Besides, I did not count how many times the author used the sentence pattern so…that , which is not bad at all. These must be the other reasons why some don’t give this novel any credit.

The novel is full of revelations that you might not be able to predict in the next pages. It tends to make you get lost for in what the story wants you to be engaged. You might suppose that the obedient father as the main character narrates his corrupt life in a government agency , or you might feel for him because of his being the bread winner of the family, accountable for the fiasco his children bring about. Also, you might be touched by his unconditional love for his granddaughter, or be disturbed by his past irresistible sexual experience which made him come into his present existence. But no. Not at all. Everything in this book is about his deep regrets for what happened to his life. The regrets that really adumbrate the internal conflicts among the characters from the beginning to the ending. So, you tend to bend your mind to  predicting the possible next story before you turn the next pages. Besides, what I appreciated and you might end up appreciating as well is the only emotions the author designated to each character. The pent-up emotions that I wanted them to let out.

Since I was concentrating on the emotions the main characters are unable to express regardless of the settings, what they do, where they go, what the government’s business is all about, I came to the point that I got bored and wanted to rush through the last pages. Perhaps I had been overcome with those stuffy feelings . In fact, I found some scenes inconceivable but possible in real life like when Anita told her neighbors and relatives about what her obedient father did to her when she was very young. I twitched my eyebrows, and wished I was close to the denouement. However, the turning point was when Anita loses the chance of winning her relatives’ sympathy, she decides to oppress her father by making his health condition fail. That part really moved me to tears because I came to understand the sensibility of the novel: I may represent the other half of Anita.

Despite the unreasonable brickbats the novel has drawn , it is a must-read, and it is good that it is on the list of 1001 best novels you must read before you die recommended by some book magazines.( Click here for the list . ) Apart from the emotions I have been pointing out, it deals with sexual harassment and rape which do not seem to be fictitiously cultural in India since I have read such theme in two Indian novels indicating that this is a social issue people across the globe should learn. Also, it limns the prevalent corruption in India’s politics given that India is considered the largest democracy in the world. So, it is a question if democracy is an effective form of government to eradicate corruption, or there may be another optional drastic measures. Furthermore, the themes that are much given more stress in the novels I have read and in all novels I will read , I believe, are the undying conventional family culture and social classification. In fact, almost the atmosphere of all the scenes from the beginning is degrading and discriminatory.

When someone asks me what kinds of novels I love to read, I blurt out that I love Dickensian novels, and Indian novels are fine examples. So, when I fulfill my dream to build my own private library as big as a half of my house filled to overflowing, I will fill those shelves with Indian novels. I would love to share them with you here. 🙂

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

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